Salon Marketing: 7 Take-Aways from Great Clips’ 40 Quarters of Growth

Neither the Great Recession nor even the Polar Vortex had the ability to derail Great Clips, which just announced that it reached a decade straight of quarter-over-quarter growth.

10 years – a full decade – of quarter-over-quarter growth ten years is not something you can simply ignore; success is success.  That’s 40 straight quarters of growth, including quarters that occurred during the Great Recession. 

Most salon owners would love to replicate this kind of success. Imagine if your salon were able to increase its revenues and customer base every three months! Your business – and income – would be recession-proof.   In no time, the books would be full and you would have a waiting list of clients wanting to get in A waiting list like that could mean insurance against client losses due to death, relocation, dissatisfaction, boredom, loss of income, etc.

After reading the news release on the Minneapolis Star Tribune, I wondered whether there were any marketing tips salon owners could learn from Great Clips 10 years of growth.  Looking from the outside-in, here are seven insights about Great Clips business model for those trying to grow a salon or spa, or increase their book of business as an independent salon owner (booth renter, salon suite owner, esthetician, massage therapist, nail technician, etc.)

In my opinion?  They’re doing a lot of things right.

7 Salon Marketing Ideas to Take Away from Great Clips’ Decade of Success

1.  They support their stores – as well as the brand – from the inside-out with advertising, marketing and technology.

(Oh, and speaking of corporate support via marketing activities: Within 10 minutes of my tweeting out a link to their press coverage, Great Clips’ corporate marketing staff had already found and favorited my tweet!)

Many salon owners have complained about lack of buy-in and engagement among staff.  Just as many stylists have complained to me that their salon’s owner will not make even basic investments in providing marketing collateral or engaging in online or offline marketing activities or advertising.

Great Clips doesn’t hand off the responsibility for promotion to its franchisees. Instead, they have built a strong core of resources and support, and invest in strategic marketing and advertising in order to drive traffic on behalf of franchisees. Visit Great Clips’ home page and you’ll be asked whether you want to “share your location” with Great Clips.  Whether you do or not, you will likely still see locations near you displayed prominently just below an attention-getting orange (energy=take action) banner.

Salons that want to grow consistently need to understand that it all begins by building a strong, solid core, including strategic advertising and marketing activities that are based on:

  • a clearly defined brand
  • a clearly defined target market and “ideal client type”
  • an understanding the importance of technology for today’s salon buyers, from investment in mobile apps to web site optimization (or SEO)
  • provision of branded collateral to ensure consistency and strengthen brand identity with consumers (vs. leaving it up to each individual to come up with their own)

2.  They found a system that works, and they stick with it.

Great Clips knows that “everyone” is not their target market, and they don’t worry about client types that don’t fall within their buyer types.

Am I in their target market?  No.  I have a penchant for custom color and I rely on my hairdresser to work her magic, so that after I’ve been washed, colored, cut, ends-treated, brow-waxed, blown out and styled, I look and feel 10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter. Oh yes, and it’s possible that I might walk in to my appointment without notice wanting a complete and drastic color or cut change, at any time.  I have a standing appointment with the same hairdresser that recurs every 5 weeks, based on her availability as well as my schedule.

Is my teenage son, husband and even my mom in their target market?  Yes.  They don’t experiment too much with their hairstyles; they’re more interested in keeping their style clean. They want to have the flexibility of coming in when it’s most convenient for them, without the hassle of remembering an appointment made weeks before. And they really don’t want to spend too much for what – to them – is more or less hair style “maintenance.”

3.  They choose locations well-suited for their business model.

You’ll find most Great Clips locations in shopping centers and malls conducive to foot traffic and consumer multi-tasking. For instance, the two nearest me are located in Auburn, Washington and Bonney Lake, Washington.  Both are located in strip malls that are withing/very near suburban, rural neighborhoods full of families, school-aged children. Surrounding these stores are other businesses including take out dining, dine-in restaurants, nail salons, dry cleaners, cell phone store outlets, drug and grocery stores, which means a lot of people coming and going throughout the day.

Great Clips’ location deliver when it comes to convenience for their clients, as well as the opportunity to gain new clients who can walk in without an appointment if they happen to be in the area and remember they needed a haircut or needed to pick up some salon-quality shampoo, conditioner or styling products. Good for service sales, good for retail sales!

4.  They deliver on the traits their ideal client types appreciate most.

Great Clips’ clients can use their smartphones or computers to check in online, even though they cannot book appointments per se.  This type of convenience is in line with the chain’s marketing, and appeals to clients who want to get hair services when it’s convenient for them, without having to book ahead.

They provide professional hair services to clients at a fairly low cost, who view these services as a commodity (since having the ability to book regular appointments with the same stylist is not a priority for them).

They have the ability to provide on-demand services with a fairly minimal wait (usually) for people who don’t have a lot of time to spare. Plus, since many of their customers become regulars, they can still offer a personal touch as they begin to see repeat customers come back in again and even time their visits in order to receive services from their favorite Great Clips’ local stylist.

5.  They understand that having skin in the game motivates.

The article points out that all 3,600+ Great Clips locations are franchise-owned. Could Great Clips build a big salon chain by hiring store managers?  Yes.  Would the model be as successful?  Maybe, maybe not.

Franchise owners have a bigger stake in the success of the store than they would if there were only employees. Therefore, presumably, their financial success is clearly tied to their store’s performance and success.  Store success = individual owner success.  What’s more, they’re owners, so they have the owner’s mentality that many salon owners would love to see in their staff.

Salon owners who want stylists, technicians and other employees to feel invested in the salon’s success overall have to find a way to tie individual success to corporate success.  If a stylist perceives their success is dependent only on what they do to promote themselves, they are unlikely to buy in and go the extra mile (and often get out of their comfort zone) in order to promote what they see as success that benefits only the salon owner or salon brand.

6.  They provide key stakeholders with a look at the bigger picture, support, resources and recognition.

The strong core of support provided to its stores by Great Clips does not end with branding and marketing.  Every two years they host all store owners and managers at a convention where they can reinstill brand ideals, provide education and training, recognize and reward stars in the franchise, and provide all attendees with a vision for the future.

7.  They actually measure progress.

Being able to report 40 straight quarters of growth doesn’t happen if goals aren’t set, benchmarks aren’t identified, a strategic plan is in place and actual progress is not measured.  It’s the same idea that you cannot get where you want to go if you do not (a) know where you are now and (b) have a set of directions for getting there.  Let’s face it, salon owners are BUSY!  It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day of operations.  Without a strategic plan, benchmarks, goals, and regular measurement of progress against intention, it’s easy to lose your way.

Well done, Great Clips, and congratulations on this incredible achievement!


Elizabeth Kraus is the author of the newly released 2015 Salon Marketing Calendar  called “Making the Cut.”

Written just for Independent Beauty Professionals, Making the Cut has hundreds of low-cost and no-cost marketing ideas which can help booth renters, salon suite owners, salon owners and salon managers engage, motivate and retain more clients in 2015!

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